John Glenn Astronomy Park
The photo here, the Milky Way over southeastern Ohio skies, was taken right down the road at the John Glenn Astronomy Park in our own Hocking Hills on Friday, August 4, 2023. JGAP as it’s known to fans, is home to a beautiful, purpose-built observatory with a giant telescope housed inside a building with sliding roof and additional telescopes on the plaza during presentation nights.
You can visit anytime but on Friday and Saturday evenings you’ll need to reserve a (free) parking pass online at the JGAP.info website as there are weekend programs provided at dusk with guided tour of the evening’s featured celestial visitors.
Here’s a great video about JGAP created by The Ohio Channel featuring the amateur astronomer, Brad Hoehne who, along with Friends of the Hocking Hills, championed the building of the observatory and park. Brad is JGAP’s Director and was our guide for the August 4th program featuring the Milky Way and Saturn. Also on hand were volunteer amateur astronomers from Circleville who set up additional telescopes to allow everyone a chance to see the stars though the night cleared out enough to see the Milky Way without a telescope!
A few notes if you decide to visit…
The reason JGAP is a special place is that it is DARK. Do not bring light into the observation area. Folks who hobby in astronomy use red-tinted flashlights if they need to see where they’re going so that everyone can keep their ‘night vision’ intact.
Bring a comfy chair, blanket, a beverage and, if you’re going to sit out in the grassy area during warm weather months, some bug spray may be helpful. Bring your own telescope or binoculars but know that you’ll still get a beautiful view of more stars than you see at home (if you live around streetlights) even just looking up without any device.
Cameras can capture the beauty but generally need to be mounted on a tripod with the right lens and a very long exposure. (Be sure to turn off your flash before attempting any phone photography.) Check out the Friends of JGAP Images Facebook Group for tips on astrophotography – it’s a rabbit hole worth diving into!
This is a kid-friendly experience so feel free to bring your littles, middles and older kids for an incredible night in the darkest skies you’ll find in the area.
The weekend programs run March through November. You *must* have a parking pass (free) to attend on Friday and Saturday nights. Once you have your parking pass, you’ll receive email notification around mid-day confirming the program is still on, or you can check the JGAP website for confirmation. These programs are weather-dependent – nothing to see if it’s cloudy – so be prepared for cancellation if clouds move in. BUT, you’re always welcome to come any other night of the week just to set up and enjoy the skies on your own or with friends.
Visiting the Park is always free but you can help support the Park’s operations and programming with donations or purchase of commemorative mugs, patches and other merchandise available for sale on presentation evenings. Learn more about how to donate online.
Follow John Glenn Astronomy park on Facebook.
Wishing you clear skies and see you at the Park!